Gone are the days when motorists could look forward to nothing more than barren concrete freeway entrances and sound walls while traveling the nation's highways.
Residents will get an opportunity Tuesday night to review and comment on Carson City's History in Motion, a proposed plan to blend landscape, art and history into the six interchanges and grade separations of the north leg of the Carson City Freeway.
The themed idea builds on the Nevada Department of Transportation's vision for the entire 395 corridor, which is intended to celebrate Carson City's history through motion and travel. The project will benefit freeway travelers as well as drivers on surface streets around the freeway.
"This could put a new face on Carson City and give us a new way to look at our city," said Park Planner Vern Krahn.
The meeting, sponsored by Carson City and Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides, will be from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Sierra Room and front lobby of the community center, 851 E. William St.
The public will be encouraged during the first hour to review the exhibits and talk with staff from the city, NDOT, GROW and project consultants, to share their ideas and ask questions.
A formal presentation will be offered in the Sierra Room during the second hour, with the final hour devoted to more informal conversations, said Krahn.
"We wanted to make it a convenient format so people would have lots of different opportunities to come in at different times," he said. "These are conceptual ideas, and we hope the public will respond positively, but we also that they will help us prioritize what's most important and least important as we move forward - what are their favorite elements and what they could live without."
Plans include a combination of steel sculpture cutouts, wooden structures, berms, paintings, boulders and landscaping. Native or drought-tolerant vegetation will be used in the landscaped areas, and all plantings will be drip-irrigated.
Mary Fischer, president of GROW, said the vision for creating aesthetic surroundings for the freeway started in 1997.
"What we have now is so much more than we ever dreamed when we thought about rocks and native vegetation," Fischer said. "We're very, very excited. The designer was so interested in Carson City history and this project has so much history in it. Nobody ever believed this would happen."
Fischer said it is critical that the community attend the Tuesday meeting and offer input.
"We hope an awful lot of people turn out for this," she said. "We've got some neat concepts, and all the comments people make are important to us, good or bad. It's a true community project with so much history in it that it's the kind of thing where tourists could get a map showing all interchanges with the history of our community."
Carson City has received about $2.2 million for these improvements to the freeway corridor with $1.7 million secured through federal funding by the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid and GROW. In addition, Carson City received $500,000 through the Nevada Department of Transportation's Community Match Program.
The design costs for the project are being funded by the Regional Transportation Commission and will be developed to meet NDOT's U.S. 395 Landscape and Aesthetic Corridor Plan.
"Without these monies, we wouldn't be doing this," Krahn said. "It was not in the original plans for the freeway. This is a chance to come back and take another run at it."
Looking into the future, Krahn said funding is not yet available for the Highway 50 East Interchange, but plans call for a V&T theme. NDOT has received stimulus money for the Fifth Street Grade Separation and the Fairview Interchange, which will be the next step.
"Think of it as a history book, with each chapter having its own theme within that book," Krahn said.
After the public meeting, the concepts will be refined and a detailed design process will be completed between March and June. Final design is scheduled from July through mid-October, and the project could go to bid in December with work starting in early 2011.
To download a PDF of the project overview with photos and drawings, go to www.carson-city.nv.us and click under "What's New."
Comments on the project also may be submitted in writing at the meeting or by e-mail through Jan. 26 to email@example.com with Carson City Freeway Landscape in the subject line. Comments also can be mailed to Vern L. Krahn, Park Planner, Carson City Parks and Recreation Department, 3303 Butti Way, Building #9, Carson City, Nevada, 89701.
For more information, call Krahn at 887-2262, ext. 30343.